Girl making robot

Innovation is happening…without media focus

One of our readers directed us to this organization called Uncharted Play, which was started by Harvard graduates in 2012 and has garnered international attention for all the right reasons. The two women in charge wanted to relate their experiences with helping the developing world in a practical manner, and after attending an engineering class, they created the Soccket, a soccer ball that provides off-the-grid energy after playing with it! You can read more about the process and their backstory on their website unchartedplay.com (and I highly recommend you do). The site also has a new-ish product, the Pulse, which is a jump rope that also provides energy (that can charge your cell phone) after using!

The site claims that “With every purchase, Uncharted Play give one child access to our energy-generating play products and our Think Out of Bounds curriculum,” which is their own educational resource that bolsters creative thinking in children outside of the classroom.
This kind of organization is exactly what the Franklin Foundation (and I personally) supports and strives to see more of: American innovation, women in science, helping solve problems in the community, philanthropy, providing practical education experience and positivity for children, and being overall awesome! (And no, they aren’t paying me to say this!)

I was overjoyed to be referred to this website, and did a little digging online to see what kind of attention they got with their revolutionary product. Like I said, they do have some international attention (especially since one of the founders herself is Nigerian), and they have received some impressive press here in the US, but it seems as though something like this should have more than a few thousand Facebook likes and twitter followers.
It’s a pretty simple concept – a ball you can kick around that provides renewable energy for people with little to no access to a safe energy resource. I’m sure the mechanics of how it actually works is much more complicated, but that’s outside my field of understanding for now.

But the idea of solving a major problem with a simple solution is what really got my attention. Think about it, a child plays soccer for a while during the day, and has a personal reading light to do homework with at night. Or get a 15 minute cardio workout with a jump rope, charge your cell phone with it once you’re done. It’s the kind of inventions we all think about as kids, but rarely seem to exist or come into fruition as adults; at least, not often enough. And the ones that do exist don’t seem to get the attention they deserve. We should be seeing celebrity endorsements of these kinds of products instead of hearing about who is the new face for whatever clothing or makeup line. Actually, why not both at the same time? “Jennifer Lawrence gets her Dior-wearing body in shape with her renewable-energy jump rope!”

Money, I’m sure, is the main reason that smaller, non-profit organizations don’t get as much attention, but it’s also the media’s choice to report on what they think is most interesting and not necessarily what’s most helpful. Media influence is still one of the biggest hurdles that everyone has to face on all aspects, education included. But we only hear about the issues when they become big enough to affect the majority. Like with regards to standardized testing, which has been a problem for years, we’re only just now seeing semi-consistent coverage on its impending reformation because of the protests and opt-out movements that are happening. And with the presidential election coming up, I’m sure we’ll get our fair share of promises from all sides on education reform and better funding and better tests and qualified teachers all over again, but end up with not enough change in the long run after votes have been tallied.

It would be nice to see a general shift in media focus toward more positive things like Uncharted Play (…and The Franklin Foundation…), and other tangible things that can help make the world we live in a better place. Social media is the closest thing we have to getting there, and is becoming a more legitimized platform every day. So let’s keep liking and sharing our way to a better place!

Tracey Woodard
Tracey Woodard
tracey.woodard@franklinfound.org

<p>Our Senior contributor Tracey Woodard graduated in 2010 from Bucknell University with a BA in English – Creative Writing and Theater. An advid believer in the importance of public school education, she uses a mix of personal and learned experiences to express her thoughts on today’s most pressing education issues. She currently resides just outside of Philadelphia, PA.</p>

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